career advice


I have neglected my blog for a while now amidst many changes in my world – job hunting/finding, weddings, dog drama. However, there are certain things in one’s sphere that cannot go unnoticed. Wednesday night, President Barack Obama was the first sitting US President in history to give a commencement speech to a graduation class. This passage would be notable unto itself, but it was made more amazing by the response of the Arizona State University chairs who decided that President Obama’s body of work was not yet complete, and was therefore undeserving at this time to be presented with an honorary degree as is the university’s custom for noted speakers. I’m not going to go into the idiocy of a response like that — I think the Daily Show did a beautiful job of making ASU look like asses (which I provide to you here in case you missed it).

One of the things I really like about Obama, though, is his unyielding ability to make lemonade out of lemons. The way he turned the controversy into a larger speech about our individual responsibilities to not rest on our laurels throughout our entire life is a lesson for everyone on navigating sticky, potentially explosive situations. He is a diplomat, first and foremost, and we all need to take a queue from this guy, whether it be in dealing with family members, in business situations, complaining about the food at a restaurant, blogging, whatever. A line in one of my favorite movies comes to mind: You may not like him, Minister. But you can’t deny it – Dumbledore’s got style.”

Last week, I was listening to Hardball on MSNBC when they were talking about the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Throughout the hour, a bunch of pundits were on speculating about how this could have happened, when I heard this amusing exchange (between Ret. General Barry McCaffrey and guest host Mike Barnicle):

MCCAFFREY: Mike, there‘s also a human dimension to this, I might sort of add in.

In the last 25 years, there has been a 40 percent drop in the number of graduate—or undergraduate degrees in engineering. We need our brilliant young men and women in the eighth grade doing algebra, in the 10th grade doing calculus, and then studying civil engineering and architectural design, not just studying law and recreation management.

So, our future is wrapped up in…

BARNICLE: There is a whole other program.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE: Drop the hedge funds and go to engineering school.

So let’s see here. Recreation management (check), law school (check), MBA (check check) – is someone trying to tell me something?

I’m always looking for the meaning of life in articles about how to change/manage/find my career, and I just read a good one on Guy Kawasaki’s blog.

Trunk’s advice on advanced degrees is interesting, because it is my (short) experience that an MBA helps you if you want to move up in your current company, gives you the courage and knowledge to start your own business (if you needed any to begin with), etc. In terms of changing jobs, though, you’re just another person in the world with an MBA competing with all the other MBAs for the same small pool of positions. It’s a “check the box” move, not a career path in and of itself (unless you specialize in Accounting or some other such thing).

One of the many reasons I picked Law was that it gives one credentials to perform in the Legal field – similar to the way that an Engineering degree allows one to be an engineer. You can’t have a career in it without the education. A Business degree, on the other hand, is different. Anyone with enough guts, smarts, or savvy can open their own business, and some do extraordinarily well. But not all have or need an MBA to do it. An MBA may help to further your current path, but it is difficult to change course altogether with just an MBA.

I’m glad I went back to get it, though I may never actually use it, mostly because of the ego boost it gave me. I was able to prove to myself on my own terms that I was just as smart as other MBAs. The stigma of getting that first “advanced degree” dissipated and opened my mind to other possibilities I had long since wrote off. All in all, a very good thing.